THE CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS OF MOTOCROSS
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF
AMERICAN RIDERS? They had a lot to learn
[laughs]! I decided to stay longer in the United States.
I wanted to help the sport grow in America, so I
arranged the first motocross schools. I put an ad in
Cycle News that said, “Please send $40 to enter a
motocross school.” I held several motocross schools,
and I made enough money to stay an extra month.
This was good, because my work for Edison was over
after the first month.
“THEY DIDN’T LIFT THE FRONT
WHEEL WHEN THEY CAME TO
WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING YOU TAUGHT
THE AMERICAN RIDERS? Just how to go over a
small ditch. They rode straight into the ditch [laughs].
They didn’t lift the front wheel when they came to the
ditch, and you know what happens to the rear wheel
when you slam into a ditch? It comes up and over! I
remember this more than anything.
WHO WERE THE MOST PROMISING
AMERICAN RIDERS? Malcolm Smith, Dick Mann
and Preston Petty. They rode very well, but I would
say they were like Novices when compared to
European standards of the time.
YOU LEFT HUSQVARNA IN 1971. WHY?
Husqvarna did not offer to renew my contract. I had
won the World Championship four times for them,
and I felt I was worth something, but they didn’t
contact me at all. Suzuki had come into motocross
with Joel Robert, and they had tried to hire me in
1966, but I turned them down because of my loyalty
to Husqvarna. So, I decided that I would approach
Yamaha. I thought it was only natural for Yamaha to
get involved, so I had a meeting with them. When
Husky heard that I had talked to Yamaha, they offered
me a deal to race in America.
BUT YOU DIDN’T TAKE IT? No. Two days after
Husky’s offer, Yamaha offered me a three-year contract
that was everything I hoped for. I would get a good
salary and play a role in developing the bikes. I didn’t
even talk to my wife about it. I signed immediately.
One week later, the Yamaha prototype bikes arrived.
By the end of 1971, the bike was very good, and
I recommended that they hire Hakan Andersson for
the 250 class and Jaak Van Velthoven and Christer
Hammargren for the 500 class.
TELL US ABOUT THE FIRST YAMAHA
MONOSHOCK. In June of 1972, Yamaha sent an
experimental bike that had special rear suspension
designed by Belgian Lucien Tilkens. The Monoshock
system had already been offered to Suzuki and Honda,
but they didn’t act on it. Yamaha was going to leave it
up to me whether to buy it or not. After many laps, I
told them to buy it.
Although Torsten Hallman was
loyal to the Swedish brand, he
didn’t feel that they were loyal
to him. Yamaha was waiting in
Torsten was the founder
of Thor Racing.